In the first half of the eleventh chapter of Wizard’s Holiday, Nita no longer ignores the suspicion she has that something is wrong with Alaalu. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
The answer was right there the whole time. ALAALU IS TOO PERFECT BECAUSE IT CAN NEVER CHANGE.
This is a very philosophically dense chapter, an exploration of some intense and heavy topics relating to humanity, evolution, and failure. I respect that Duane respects us, too. While this was a challenging read, it was still entertaining, horrifying, and wasn’t watered down for the reader. It’s a lot to take in, sure, and I hope I’m not simplifying it too much in this review, but I love that an author can tell their readers, “Hey, this is a lot, but I trust that you are along for the ride.”
And what a ride it’s been so far! This isn’t the first time that Duane has addressed this theme, but y’all, I’ll never really tire of stories about trusting one’s instincts. We saw that earlier with Dairine, though it’s used in a different context. Regardless, this is still an important part of wizardry:
She had mistakenly, but purposely, deactivated one of a wizard’s most useful tools: the hunch.
And what is a hunch? An instinct. A quick and quiet judgment based on experience, knowledge, wisdom, and critical thinking. We get hunches because our conscious or subconscious mind is putting the pieces together and suggesting that maybe, maybe, we actually know what’s going on. I see hunches and instincts as survival methods, you know? It’s how my brain or even my heart protects me. Don’t go there. Don’t do that. Think twice about this decision. Remember the past.
In Nita’s case, her hunch was absolutely based on instinct. Broken record time, cousins, because I’m gonna repeat something I’ve said before: the serialization in this series is downright incredible. Her mind pieced together events from the past couple of years, and that means for us, Duane manages to pack in threads from at least four other books (perhaps all of those that came before this) in order to bring Nita to her epiphany.
Something is very wrong with Alaalu’s kernel.
And where else could they go to learn more? It was unavoidable that Nita and Kit would have to talk to the Lone One, but that didn’t make the scene any less disturbing. (Or insightful, if that matters, and I think it does.) For all the grandeur and spectacle we’ve seen every time someone faces off with the Lone Power, it was astounding to me to see how little of those things were here. Oh, the Naos was gorgeous and eerie, and there was certainly some drama to the approach, but in the end, the Lone Power was trapped on a chair, and this part of It had been there for thousands of years.
It certainly explains the snappy way It spoke while in the form of Esemeli. How would anyone feel about being a historical tourist attraction for that many years? But this is the Lone Power we’re talking about; I expect It to be rude. Deceitful. Cruel. Dishonest. Yet that’s what is so unsettling about what unfolds here. As Kit and Nita question the Lone One about Alaalu, the Choice the Alaalids made all those years ago, and the problem with this planet, I stopped seeing a reason for the Lone One to lie. Do I trust the Lone One? HELL NO. Initially, I saw the whole set-up as part of a trick. Why else would the Lone One talk about Its past with Nita and Kit? Or reference the change made after Dairine’s Ordeal? Or talk about how frustrated It was with being trapped on this world?
I assumed that it was setting them up for a con. Soften them up, make them slightly sympathetic to It, then ask for help, and make it seem like they were doing something good. And that was my theory right up to the point where the Lone One spelled out what was wrong with Alaalu:
“There’s some room for small, personal change… just. But as for the big changes that every species needs to go through every now and then, to avoid stagnating and just dying away – those are all shut away from them. They can’t evolve. And you’ve seen what their world’s become as a result! It hardly even counts as a world anymore. It’s a theme park. They’ve turned it into ‘Nice Land.’”
I truly believe the Lone One is telling the truth. We’ve seen all the signs of it, and it explains this obvious cultural prejudice that Quelt exhibited. Of course nothing feels wrong to her, and of course she’s still bothered by the subtle sense that she should be doing something she’s not. She can’t truly grow. That means that these people might make small changes in their life, but there’s no real development. Same with their government; farming; society; schooling; knowledge. Without the ability to evolve, their stagnation means a slow, undeniable decline. Oh, entropy isn’t gone; it’s just stretched out over a massive length of time. And instead of becoming better or progressing, they’ve basically stayed the same.
Imagine if our own history did the same! What if we were the same as humans three thousand years ago? What if that’s the best we ever knew? Sure, there wouldn’t be much strife, but would there be much life either? Progress isn’t always a good thing, sure, and many times, progress comes at the expense of other people. But I’d like to think that we’re still barreling forward towards something better, you know? What if that possibility didn’t even exist?
It’s a truly frightening thing to think about because at some point, Nita and Kit are going to have to tell Quelt the truth. That means that she’ll be given a responsibility that’s greater than anything faced in a long, long time. Horrible things are going to happen to the Alaalids, to a people who have no real experience with high-level strife, with destruction, with existential conflict. Can you imagine trying to convince a people to accept that into their lives?
But they have to do it. They have to find Druvah, and they’re gonna have to help Quelt understand why this is a bad thing. First, however, they’re gonna manipulate the Lone One a bit, and lord, I cannot wait to see what comes of that.
I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.
Mark Links Stuff
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